Beyond the Black Rainbow (2010)
Welcome to The Arboria Institute. A state of the art facility in the future (well 1983) where things are a bit odd, meaning we have a sci-fi thriller on our hands. This is pretty stylish, beautifully lit, but with a retro grit. Think 2001 without the spaceships or budget. Eerie characters made all the more so with the haunting electronic score and the sort of future tech reminiscent of Gattaca. Barry Nyle (Michael J Rogers) is the psychiatrist and Elena (Eva Bourne) is the patient. Both are creepy and so is their environment. The institute is a world of overhead fluorescent lights, minimal spaces, with clean lines and no sign of nature. It’s promise of bringing happiness seems far fetched and poor Elena appears dosed up to the eyeballs. Barry is clearly attached more than he should be. Talking of her mother, but being of pretty much zero practical help. Details are heavily coded and there’s some fun to be had trying to work out what Barry and Arboria are up to, but it’s a given that we’re in the world of psychological manipulation. We need a sympathetic view, someone to represent our queries and our sense of right in a world of wrongs. This could be Margo (Rondel Reynoldson). Margo though is sadly sadistic, but does provide us with proof that Elena is not as helpless as she appears. This film could really have used a few more characters like Margo to put some flesh on the bones. Instead the cast is kept to a minimum, letting the aesthetics of the environment play a role, including a giant glowing pyramid that emits sonic awesomeness. The sparse almost nonexistent dialogue does make it hard to find any grounding, but there’s just enough to keep it moving. A central scene with Barry and Dr Arboria (Scott Hylands) reveals Barry’s distain for his dying boss and perhaps what’s lead Barry to where he now finds himself, trapped as much a part of Arboria as Elena. Dr Arboria’s motives might’ve been honourable, it’s difficult to tell. It’s safe to assume that whatever experiments my have taken place and to what ends, may well have exceeded any expectations and stumbled into places hard to comprehend. No one is really in control. It’s a good half hour too long, with several scenes that could easily trimmed or cut altogether. It’s almost like it’s trying a little too hard to prolong the weird and uneasy tension of its B-Movie experimentation. I’m right there with it through, until the end when it’s does lose its way altogether, turning into an 80s slasher flick. For all it’s flaws, it’s impressively ambitious, very Lynchian in places, certainly in its slow purposeful pacing, but not as clever and not as intriguing. Sadly it’s a perfect example of style over substance. It really does look absolutely fantastic, scene after scene, shot after shot, but it lacks any real substance to back it up. Despite the thin narrative, I love it. It’s gorgeous to look at and the score is brilliant.